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Powerless: Chapter 2

Sloane

Sloane: Are you here?

Jasper: Where else would I be?

Sloane: I thought you might be mad at me. Please don’t hate me.

Jasper: I could never hate you, Sunny.


I feel sick.

The day I’ve dreamt of since I was a little girl is finally here, but it’s nothing like I imagined.

It’s snowing. And I’ve always wanted a spring wedding.

It’s in an ornate church downtown. And I wanted a cozy country affair.

It’s a spectacle with hundreds of people in attendance. And all I wanted was something small and intimate.

Worst of all, the man I’m going to walk down the aisle toward isn’t the one I see when I close my eyes. He isn’t the one I’ve wanted for the better part of my life.

I’ve given up so thoroughly that I’m settling for a person I don’t love. One who I’m sure I don’t even like, and it makes me sick.

No, this day is nothing like I imagined.

My cousin Violet fiddles with the bobby pins in my hair while I sit at a stained wood vanity with my hands clamped around each other in my lap, covering the massive diamond on my ring finger. If I keep them there, squeezing until it hurts, it will prevent me from crying.

Or doing something stupid like running.

“I don’t know where it is. I can’t see anything with the way they’ve got it all twisted up.”

“It’s there. I can feel it pulling. It’s too tight. It hurts.”

She sighs and catches my eye in the mirror. “You sure it’s the hair, Sloane?”

I tip my chin up, lengthening my neck and watching the column of my throat work as I do. “Yes.” I force my voice to sound surer than I feel and let my mind go blank, the way it does when I’m performing. When I leap and spin and the lights are bright and the audience is dark, I’m comfortable.

With a heavy sigh and a concerned glance, Violet dutifully goes back to searching for a bobby pin in my hair that she isn’t sure exists. She just insinuated that my uncomfortable updo is some parallel for my life.

I can read between the lines.

She hasn’t said much about Sterling. No one has — except for Jasper.

Jasper.

I can’t even think of his name without a wave of nausea hitting me. The guilt over the words I hurled at him the other evening has eaten away at me. Kept me up at night. And the finality of knowing my already impossible chance with him will end with me marrying someone else never fails to crack my chest open.

Jasper Gervais and I are friends. Good friends. He’s made that clear a couple times over now. And I’m not enough of a masochist to go for the hat trick.

I’m sure everyone thinks I’m over him, but that’s only because I’ve become an expert at hiding my feelings. He’s consumed every corner of me since I first laid eyes on him, and he’s never looked at me as more than a little sister.

I grimace when liquid trickles into my hands. I turn them over and peer down. A manic laugh bubbles out of me as I stare down. Blood pools languidly into a perfect, shiny droplet in the middle of my palm, almost like it defies gravity, just by existing.

The puncture from where the pointed claw of my engagement ring dug in taunts me, like the universe knows this marriage will make me bleed in ways that no one else will know or see.

Sterling wouldn’t lay a hand on me, but everything else about him—about this life—drains me.

“Oh shit! Sloane! You can’t get that on your dress.” Violet’s hands pull away in alarm before she rushes over to the en suite bathroom, black satin dress swishing against her.

Black. Again, I laugh. I’d never have chosen black dresses for my wedding. I’d choose something light and whimsical. A celebratory color.

But then, this isn’t really my wedding, and it isn’t really a celebration either. Maybe funeral colors make perfect sense.

I haven’t been able to muster the energy to complain about the things I don’t want. And I realize now, watching the small orb of blood trickle into the center of my palm, that’s because I don’t want this wedding at all.

“Here.” Violet presses a wad of toilet paper against the prophetic cut, looking downright terrified as she stares at me. “Are you okay?”

I huff out a composed breath. “Yeah, yeah. It’s not like I lost a limb or something.”

The thought of animals chewing off their own limbs to escape a trap pops up in my mind.

Violet’s brow crinkles. “Listen. I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but I need to offer it just once or I’ll never forgive myself.”

My lips quirk at her serious tone. “Okay. I’m listening.”

She rolls her shoulders back dramatically as she stares at me. Really stares at me. Hard. I’m inclined to glance away but I don’t.

“If you don’t want this.” Her free hand signals around us. “If you need an out. If you need a getaway car. I’m your girl. I won’t say a thing. I won’t judge you. But if this isn’t right? If you need to run? Like . . .” She looks away momentarily, lips rolling together as she weighs her next words carefully. “Blink twice or something. Okay?”

I don’t blink, but a tear spills out and runs down my cheek.

“Fuck,” my cousin breathes. “I made you cry. I’m sorry. I just had to throw it out there.”

“I love you, Violet. I’m not sure I’ve ever told you that. But you? Your family? Those weeks on the ranch every summer are some of the best days of my life.”

Her eyes water and she blinks frantically, cupping my hands in hers. “But today is better, right?”

Her eyes search mine so earnestly, blue on blue. All I can muster is a sad smile. Today should be the happiest day of my life, but it’s not, and I don’t want to lie to her.

My lips open before I even know what I’ll say, but my phone lights up and dings loudly on the vanity counter in front of us. Saved by the bell.

Dropping her gaze, I lurch for my phone, relieved by having an out. It’s a text from “Private Number” and when I tap at it, the only message attached is: Thought you should see this.

Below that is a video. With a preview image that is strikingly familiar.

I hit the play button.

“What the hell?” Violet’s hand lands on my knee as she presses forward to get a good view of the screen.

The screen lights up with a grainy video. Loud music thumps. And what’s happening front and center should upset me. After all, what looks familiar is my fiancé dressed in the same polo shirt he wore on the night of his stag.

“Violet, can you go get Sterling for me, please?”

I should be devastated. But all I can think as I watch a naked woman bounce on Sterling’s dick is that I won’t have to chew off my own limb after all.


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